Bagru: Traditional Printing Technique of Rajasthan (India)

Excerpts from an article by honourable Dr. Sambaditya Raj

(Published in UGC scopes articles in 2009)

Bagru is one of the famous centres of hand block printing in Rajasthan located 32 km west from Jaipur. The Chhipa community is famous for this artisan work of block printing. Its soil and climate provides a perfect blend for this exclusive style of printing. Dabu printing is also famous in Bagru in which clay, gum, ruined wheat, limestone and cow pies are mixed together and printed on the fabric. Thereafter, fabric is dyed and left for drying under the sunlight. Now day’s synthetic dyes are introduced for various color combinations but still village has the practice to use the natural color. Indigo, Pomegranate, Harda are used to obtain the natural colors. Chhipa mohalla is considered as the hub of hand block printing in Bagru where one can see various colors of fabric hung on terraces.

It is believed that this form of art was introduced more than four hundred years back by Chhipa community who were settled in the banks of river Sanjariya which provides the most important ingredient “clay” for this printing. The fabric is then soaked in Fuller’s earth and then dipped into turmeric water to get a tone of yellow color. Then the dyed fabric is stamped with the beautiful designs known as blocks. The base color of the fabric is usually the dull shades such as white, cream and beige and natural color such as red, black and maroon are used for printing. Black color can be obtained naturally from iron horse shoe smeared in water, red can be obtained from alum and maroon is a mixture of black and red. Apart from this natural vegetable dyes are also prominent and saffron is also used to create a special print of hand block printing in Bagru.

Hand Block Printing Process

It’s a labour intensive process which requires lot of skillfulness, time and tolerance power of the artisans. The wooden blocks of teak-wood are used for printing the design which are soaked in oil overnight and then washed before put to use. These collections of block are considered to be the wealth of Chhipas as they have collected these over a period of time. The cloth to be printed is soaked in the solution of clay and other chemicals to make the fabric soften and then dried before being used for printing. Neat stamping is foremost to get the appealing prints. After printing, cloth is left for drying in the Sun for final touch-up.

Different types of motifs used in Bagru printing are Aath, Kaaliya, Chopad, and Kamal.

Now a days various modern techniques and equipments are used by artisan to make their crafts more efficient and effective. Synthetic dyes are used to come out from traditional style of hand block printing in Bagru and making the prints more attractive. Many Chhipa families have left this form of art and migrated to cities but still many skilled artisans are there to keep their ancient tradition. This art is not only magnificent but also eco-friendly, hence gaining more importance as the world is rising up for environmental awareness.